Fighting to End Human Trafficking
The House Homeland Security Committee held a field hearing in Houston, “Combating Human Trafficking in Major Cities.” Human trafficking is often called “modern-day slavery”. Victims are lured with false promises of economic opportunities that await them in more affluent destination countries, such as the U.S. or are American children who the Justice Department describe as “runaways, throwaways, or homeless” who forced to work against their will often in the commercial sex trade as forced labor. Worldwide, there are more individuals in slavery today than at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In the United States, it is estimated that there are 100,000 children in the sex trade, each year.
This hearing was intended to shed light specifically on trafficking in major cities in the US and discover ways to uncover many of the challenges that people on the ground face daily, including the victims themselves. I heard from law enforcement officials and people who work with the victims. I have been told that the allocation of resources from law enforcement is a "matter of priorities". As I said during the hearing, I cannot think of a higher priority than going after criminals who force young children into slavery in the sex industry.
In addition to legislative action, we must realize that the victims are victims. Often they are first discovered when they are arrested for crimes they were forced to commit. We can change the law to make it easier to catch traffickers, but law enforcement must work to cut off the demand in this disgusting industry to obstruct criminals from participating.
Human trafficking robs victims of their basic human rights and it occurs right under our noses. Many efforts have been focused in other regions of the world, but this is a major problem here at home. I cannot ignore this reality and I encourage my all colleagues to join me in this fight to end modern day slavery in our own backyard.